We all know the famous Aesop fables story of Hare and the Tortoise, How Hare tries to trick Tortoise but tortoise beats him in his own game. The little furry animals, Rabbit and Hare played a very important role in a lot of mythological incidents for cultures where agriculture was developed and they were a farming community or forest inhabitant. Like Native Americans who farmed corn, Japanese’s farmed rice, African Tribes who were forest inhabitants, etc. Rabbits and Hares are both related to each other but they differ in several ways. The ears and hind legs of Rabbits are much shorter than those of Hares. At birth, Rabbits are hairless and blind, while Hares are furred and their eyes are open. Rabbits also were used as a gift to express love, since they are cute little animals. There is a lot more to the Rabbits and Hares.
Rabbit The Hero of Japanese Mythology
In the tale of Kojiki, the Rabbit is the hero who cleverly fought crocodiles. In the story, he tricks a group of crocodiles into helping him across to the mainland from Oki. The Rabbit lost his fur in the process but was helped by Okuninushi, a young man who used pollen to restore his white hair. The grateful Rabbit then helped Okuninushi win the hand of a princess.
In one popular Japanese’s story Rabbit fights a Badger to help a farmer. The badger ruins the old farmer’s field, digging holes and gnawing on the vegetables and rice until the poor man has nothing to show for his hard work. After laying a series of traps, the farmer finally catches the badger, binds his feet to hang it upside down from the roof. The farmer warns his wife not to release the animal and he would make a badger soup of the badger. While the husband is in the fields, the badger pleads the old woman that he will help her with the housework and not run away. The old woman kindly lets him loose, but as the badger is set loose he badger kills her, cuts her up, and makes a soup of her. Then he assumes the old woman’s form. When the farmer returns, his “wife” greets him at the door, offering him some badger soup. Just as he sits down to eat, the badger turns back into his real form to boast about killing the farmer’s wife. He then escapes to the hills. The horrified farmer cries long and bitterly, catching the attention of a kind Rabbit. Trying to comfort the farmer, the Rabbit encourages him to tell the terrible tale, then figures out a way to punish the badger. By setting the badger’s bundle of dry grass on fire, then applying a pepper ointment to his wounds, and finally by drowning him in a clay boat.
The Trickster in Native American Mythology
In Native American mythology, Hare is also a Hero performing marvelous deeds. Michabo (the Great Hare) was the principal deity, creator, and culture hero of Algonquian-speaking tribes. The Hare is considered as the grandson of Grandmother Earth is the hero in Ho-Chunk mythology in which he performs many marvelous deeds.
The Rabbit commonly figures as a trickster in Native American tales, such as the Ojibway Missapos, who changed his form in order to trick people and animals, For the Cherokee, Rabbit (Tsistu) was a trickster and deceiver who was often beaten at his own game by his intended victims. Among the Algonquian-speaking people of the Northeast, Mahtigwess the Rabbit was considered a powerful trickster with magical powers. Another Algonquian tradition held that Wabose, the third brother of the culture hero Manabozho, was changed into a Rabbit.
The Trickster is also The Great Giver
In cultures across the North American continent, corn played major role mythology. Many tales describe how corn came into being and how people learned to cultivate it. Usually personified as a woman, corn was frequently given to humans by a woman or women, such as the Corn Maidens, the Corn Mothers, Kanenhagenat, or Moon Woman. Not all stories say that the giver of corn was a woman. A dwarf named Fas-ta-chee, whose hair and the body was made of corn, gave corn to the Seminole and taught them how to cultivate and grind it. The culture hero Ioskeha brought corn to the Huron. Tavwots, a Rabbit, stole corn and gave it to the Ute (people speaking Ute language).
In another adventure of the Rabbit Tavwot he is on a journey to fight the Sun. Angry because his back became sunburned while he was taking a nap, Tavwots set off for the Sun’s home. On the way, He discovered and stole corn and tricked both the Bear and the tarantula. He shattered the Sun into many pieces, which started a fire that covered the entire world. Unable to escape, Tavwots was burned so badly that only his head was left. His eyes burst open and tears poured out, causing a great flood that put out the fire. In a Paiute legend, Tavwots was the father of the Cinauau, two creator brothers.
In a Netsilik Inuit tale about the origin of light, A Hare whose words had magical powers won a verbal duel with Fox who preferred darkness. The Hare was awarded daylight, but in order to please both animals, night always followed.
Possessor of the Elixir (Drink of Immortality) in Chinese Mythology.
Rabbit is a common animal in the Yangtze valley and northern China and was often used in myth and folklore as a symbol of longevity. One legend about the Moon says a Hare was employed there by the gods to mix the right combination of drugs to create the elixir of life. (Ancient Chinese believed that they could see a Rabbit on the Moon, formed by the craters and shadows.) A Taoist legend claimed that a Hare spent his time on the Moon mixing the Elixir of Eternal Life.
Messenger of Death in African Mythology
In a myth about the origin of death, when someone died, Abradi told the people that the person would come to life again the next day if they just set the body aside. So it was—anyone who died came back to life the next morning. Once, however, when a man died, a Rabbit reached the people before Abradi did. Rabbits did not get along with people, and this Rabbit wanted to cause mischief. It told the people to bury the dead man or else Abradi would destroy them. Frightened, the people buried the man. When Abradi found out what they had done, he decreed that from then on death would be permanent.
In a myth of the Luyi of Zambia. The Supreme God, Nyambe, sent a chameleon to tell humans that they would have eternal life. However, a Hare arrived first with the message that once dead, humans would remain dead.
A Hare was also the cause of death in a tale told by the Khoikhoi of South Africa. The Moon sent the Hare to humans with the message that as the Moon died and was reborn, humans would also be reborn after they died. The Hare became confused and inserted the word, not in the message. It told humans that as the Moon died and was reborn; they would die and not be reborn. When the Hare admitted what it had done, the angry Moonstruck it in the face, splitting its lip. That is why Hares have a split upper lip.
The Hare was also a trickster in some African Mythologies,
Kadimba was the trickster Hare of the southern Bantu-speaking peoples of Angola, Botswana, and Namibia. Like other tricksters, Kadimba was lazy, clever, mischievous, and greedy. In one tale, a man named Dikithi repeatedly stole cattle and ate all the meat himself, so the other people had no food. Kadimba placed fireflies on Dikithi’s clothes. When Dikithi went to steal cattle, he thought that the fireflies were Kadimba’s eyes watching him. Thwarted in his attempted theft night after night, Dikithi finally went away.
In another story, Kadimba tricked to get his field plowed with no effort. Kadimba the Hare’s field needed to be cleared before he could plant a crop. That was a lot of work for the Hare. He soon came up with a way to get his field cleared without having to do it himself. Hare stretched a long rope across his field and waited in the bushes. Soon an elephant came along. Hare bet the elephant that he could beat him in a tug of war. The elephant laughed at the idea but picked up the rope with his trunk. Hare then hid across his field and hid behind bushes on the other side. Soon a hippopotamus came by. Hare challenged the hippo to a tug of war. The hippo thought the idea was ridiculous, but he picked up the rope with his teeth. Hare then hopped into the bushes and gave the rope a tug. When the elephant and the hippo felt the tug, each of them began pulling hard. They pulled the rope back and forth all day and into the night. Finally, they gave up, each one wondering how the small Hare could have beaten him. Hare was delighted with the results: Each time the elephant and hippo had dragged the rope back and forth, it had plowed another row in Hare’s field.
The monsters in Arabic mythology
Al-Miraj is a mythical beast from Arabic poetry said to live on a mysterious island called Jezirat al-Tennyn within the confines of the Indian Ocean. Al-Mi’raj is a large, harmless-looking yellow Rabbit with a single, 2-foot-long, black, spiraling horn protruding from its forehead, much like that of a unicorn. Al-Miraj is actually a ferociously territorial predator known to be able to kill animals and people many times their own size with a few stabs of its horn. The people of the island were so terrified of Al-Mi’raj eating them and their livestock that they would turn to witches to help them ward away as soon as the rumor of a Miraj met their ears.
The looks can surely be deceiving. one little animal such as rabbit or hare, These Vegan animals feeding on grass, carrot, corn, etc, can be also dangerous at times, tricky and also at the same time be the great one. This is really an enlightening insight into the role of this animal in Mythology.